If A Dealership Turned OFF Facebook, Twitter and Google+ What would Happen?

It seems an overwhelming majority of participants on this network are obsessed with social media channels. While I feel they play a role in a good overall marketing strategy, I wonder if we are putting too much weight on their importance?

 

Let me ask you this question:

"If a dealership took all their icons and buttons and links to Facebook, Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn OFF their websites and let their content on those sites go cold, What would happen?

(Note: They would still do basic SEO so they come up in standard searches for their name and brand in a regular search engine inquiry.)

 

Would they go out of business?  

Would business fall off 50%?

Would anybody notice? 

Another NOTE:  To all the Social Media Consultants and Vendors on the site, would you please let THREE (3) dealership employees post their replies, BEFORE you share your thoughts.   Your restraint is greatly appreciated.

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Comment by Mark Dubis on October 2, 2012 at 11:37am

I would like to thank all the DealerElite members who viewed and discussed this topic over the last week.  I had an idea of how things would go and it seems the community validated my perspective. My hunch was that social media is an integral marketing component but many vendors, trainers, and other experts were blowing its influence totally out of proportion.  That was clear by how they dismissed this discussion as silly or comparable to turning off the dealership phone, website or DMS system.

In my opinion, the best and most relevant contributions were from those working in dealerships or who recently were in dealerships but moved on (Paul Barnett). 

I encourage participants to go back and read replies by:

  • Gillon Johannson  -AKA Mr. Natural
  • Paul Barnett (his first post in this discussion with the 4 points- Thursday)
  • Steve Duff – works a solid process at the John Lee stores
  • Thomas Kelly – who highlighted examples of successful dealers who do not use social media.

These people realize what Keith Shetterly shared with us.  “Social media is an amplifier.”  If you have poor quality employees, high turnover, no internal process and a horrible customer buying experience, then social media will only highlight those shortcomings.  Rob Hagen also gets props for sharing the Domino’s experience. . . “If you listen to your customers and change to meet their needs and expectations you will succeed.”

Dealerships focus on social media because it is fairly easy, inexpensive (compared to what it cost to hire and train good employees) and you can see a tangible result (2,000 likes or 3,000 fans) which often means nothing because they “liked” you only when you offered them an incentive.

Auto dealers and their employees operate in one of the most challenging and cut-throat businesses in the country and they face daunting issues every hour.  Most people have no clue what it takes to open the doors of a dealership every day.  If they did, they would question why anyone would want to own a car dealership. Everyone in this business has my full respect, and I never sell short your drive, determination and passion for this business.

And for the ever present Tim Martell, who never saw a blog post he couldn’t comment on, please for all our sakes take a break for just a week.   You mention having discussions about educational items that benefit dealers and then your posts show a video on MySpace and talk about the Government’s new search engine.  Educational . . . Really??

Tim, I enjoyed our phone conversation and it’s clear to me you have much to share with members on DealerElite, just stay focused on giving folks the guidance and encouragement they need and be yourself.  Don’t try too hard to impress us with long discussions. I was impressed with just our one short phone call.  Share with us, don’t lecture us.


Again everyone, thank you all for sharing your thoughts and insights.  In the days ahead lets have some more discussions about things that really matter.

Lets close out this discussion and move on to the next topic. 

All the best,

Mark


PS: Just a note, when talking about the owner of a dealership, it’s Dealer Principal, not principle.
(Sorry, can’t shake my days as Editor of Digital Dealer magazine)

Comment by Stan Sher on October 2, 2012 at 1:03am

I am enjoying the comments and this post.  I can;t really come up with an answer except I do not think that we would see a decline in sales.  We will just see a decline in marketing efforts and possibilities of acquiring more sales.

Comment by Paul Barrett on October 1, 2012 at 10:38am

I somewhat agree with Timothy M.  The only reason I posted in here was to offer some insight to dealers who may not be utilizing this outlet properly.  I have no interest in spending my time on things that are not effective.  Also for anyone who is questioning my motives.  I have no stake in the game.  I recently left a dealer to start my own auto parts company.  At that dealer I was the # 1 Ecommerce and Accessory dealer in the US, most of which I owe to different online outlets for marketing.  I still post here because I like to hope I can help someone get better, because there were times where people helped me.  

Comment by Timothy Martell on October 1, 2012 at 10:13am

I have to say, I am actually shocked that this post got so much feedback. I have to say though, that anyone here who commented as a dealer really wasted their time. What is the point of this post anyway? What value has been gained from it. Who will sell more cars today as a result of having read and participated in this thread? 

Mark may as well just have asked, "What would happen if dealers stopped serving free coffee in the service department?" Who cares? How is this helping dealers make more money.

Apply the same question to virtually anything advertising product a dealer uses and the answer will be that they will not go out of business. Will someone notice? No because you don't notice a negative! 

The answer is simple, a dealer that knows how to leverage social media effectively will notice a decline over a period of time. MOST dealers who are not effectively marketing via social would notice nothing. Its a no brainer! HELLO!!! MCFLY!!!

Mark, great job, you managed to find a topic that people would jump on like fly's on... flypaper. And if making a post popular on DE was your goal, congrats. But how did this accomplish anything that will help anyone make more money as a result? Isn't that the point of dealer education? Aren't we supposed to come away with something that will help us succeed?

In the end, this thread was really just a bunch of posturing and finger pointing. I guess your point was that too much focus on a topic takes away from focus on business, but isn't that just what this post is masquerading as education? 

As a dealer principle, if I found my employee's wasting their time involved in a discussion like this, we'd be having a talk about focusing our efforts on things that produce and not distractions.

Maybe its time we looked up from the screen and made sure someone is taking care of the nice folks looking at the used honda outside? 

My two cents...

-M

Comment by Rob Hagen on September 30, 2012 at 12:05pm

Well said Mike! Your comment reminded me of something a dealer told me a week or so ago: "I'm no longer hiring anyone who doesn't have a smartphone or 500 friends on Facebook." lol

Comment by Mike Arnold on September 30, 2012 at 1:33am

Social media is in it's infant stages now, it depends on the focus of the dealership weather it's helped by Facebook or they are just tagging along because that's where the world is headed. The potential for any dealer is completely up to there location and the comfort level of their staff to be able to use this tool effectively.Every adviser, parts counter person, sales  person and so on should be using this tool to their advantage to draw them closer to their (The Dealers) customers. When selling on a personal level we all know there's no better way to make the sales than after you've sold yourself and earned the customer personal trust. This tool will be just like the phone was 10 years ago 20 to 3 years from now. Second nature once all the new wears off and the dust settles. Facebook is texting on steroids.

Comment by Rob Hagen on September 29, 2012 at 1:13pm

People have a case of information overload! They bounce from site to site looking for something that distinguishes one dealer from the next. They know they can get a car for the same price wherever they decide to buy, they are shopping for a dealer.

About three years ago, I wrote a blog post commending Domino's for their transparent marketing campaign that sent their stock prices to all time highs in a soft economy. Domino's listened to people and made major changes and the public loved it! Papa John's and Pizza Hut combated that by offering $5 large pizzas basically saying our pizza still sucks but its cheap.

Later in that post, I compared that to two competitive dealers and the affect social media would have on these two competitive dealers. Dealer 1 had good reviews and a goods reputation both online and off. Dealer 2 still employed high pressure methods that turned customers off.

People will pay more for a good sales experience and good ownership experience and all the competition will be able to do is whore out their prices. I'm not saying that they will pay sticker but i truly believe people will pay $300 to $500 more to a dealer they enjoy doing business with. Imagine $300 more per retail on every unit!

Facebook is a great place to share your positive reviews.I tell dealers all the time to share positive reviews once or twice a week. People won't always read them but they will assume they are positive after reading one and it will build a long term positive perception of your dealership.

Comment by Keith Shetterly on September 29, 2012 at 12:46pm

Social Media is An Amplifier Not The Answer.  Look at this graphic below from another blog I wrote here (thanks again to my friend for providing it).  Leads have been consistent for years--the number of people shopping on the Internet and NOT dropping leads has increased.  What do they look at?  AutoTrader, Cars.com, your website, your reputation, and social media?  What is that distribution?  What are the influences?  

I'd like to hear about that.  Regardless, here's the graphic on the leads I promised:

Comment by Rob Hagen on September 29, 2012 at 12:23pm

Whoops, last post directed to Thomas, sorry. Thank you for the kind words Thomas.

Comment by Rob Hagen on September 29, 2012 at 12:22pm

Steve, not trying to dodge the original question, I will absolutely agree that nothing much would happen. Cars would still get sold, they were being sold before the internet rolled around but can you imagine a dealership without a website or an internet department these days?

I was in F&I in the mid 90's when the first automated sub prime finance lender rolled out names BMAC, Banker Motors Acceptance Corp. The dealership I was in didn't even have the internet so I used to take deals home and submit them on an AOL dial up connection. Each app would take me about 30 minutes to submit and was a pain in the ass but i knew my competition wasn't doing the same.

Plenty of conversations happened just like this in 20 groups and on the phone by dealers wondering if the internet would be around a few years down the road. They complained about their margins being cut by internet pricing. Well, the internet is still around and we are absolutely dependent on it.

So as a follow up question, do you think Facebook will be around in 5 years? How about an even better question that takes no technology but every one of us is called upon to answer everyday: Why should a customer buy from you? If you can't answer that question, all the technology in the world won't help.

Facebook is a tool that you can use and try to stand out from your competition with or ignore it. Using social media bad is almost as bad as doing nothing so why not save the time.

Believe me, if I was going to list the priorities to running a dealership well, being good at facebook would be very low on the list. There so many other processes and procedures that should be mastered first, like the ones that lead directly to sales. But once you get good at those, social media can be an asset.

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